From the outset, sustainability has been key at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, also known as the Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institute or WKI. Dr. Wilhelm Klauditz, who founded the institute in 1946, was one of the pioneers of today's wood materials industry. He looked for solutions to optimize the use of raw wood, which was scarce after the war, and make waste wood and small-diameter timber usable. Today, sustainability continues to shape the WKI's activities. For instance, a joint project by the institute and the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT is examining whether sugar beet pulp, large quantities of which occur as a by-product of sugar production, is suitable for manufacturing composite materials, for example.

Until now, this pulp has primarily been marketed as a dairy cattle feed or biogas substrate, but could be used in higher-value applications, according to the researchers. However, as the composition of sugar beet pulp differs from that of commonplace plant fibers or agricultural products - they have only small amounts of lignin - the WKI researchers were faced with the challenge of testing a new processing method. "We carried out trials on the refiner to determine the optimum pulping conditions for the beet pulp. As the refiner is otherwise used for wood pulping, this was uncharted territory for us," explains Dr. Arne Schirp, Project Manager at the WKI. In the end, the researchers succeeded in producing medium- and high-density wood-fiber boards (MDF and HDF) with a mixing ratio of 15 percent beet pellets and 85 percent spruce chips. Thanks to the beet's adhesive strength, it wasn't just raw wood that was saved but also adhesive.

Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research - Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (38108 Braunschweig, Germany)